To Mr. Anthony Venn-Brown. Thank you so very much. I cant wait to read your book!!!!
Wow. I cant even begin to describe how amazing it feels to have found this website. I have been searching for answers about my life and my identity as a gay penticostal christian man for so long. I finaly feel like Ive found a place where there might be some people out there who understand what I am going through.
I stumbled accross this sight actualy, if I ever surf the web its usually looking for websites that talk about homosexuality and christianity. I ended up watching an interview on YouTube with Mr. Venn-Brown. I could relate a hundred percent to what he was saying! It was such a relief to hear someone from the same denomination that I have grown up in talk about such similar experiences. I guess it just feels nice to know that Im not alone.
Im 25 years old, born and raised into a penticostal christian family in North Idaho, one of the most conservative parts in the country. I spent most of my youth building up walls, barriers to keep me from “being gay”. My entire family, and extended family, Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins alike are all Christians. Ive been raised in church since I was a baby. Ive had a relationship with God since I was 5 or 6 years old. I can remember praying the sinners prayer with my Mom, asking Jesus into my heart. I have had a desire my entire life to serve the Lord, especially in music. My Mother played the piano in our small town church almost my entire childhood. I can remember at 7 or 8 years old, during times of worship, not understanding why people were raising their hands or why they were crying or speaking in funny languages but in blind child like faith mimicking their actions. I can remember feeling Gods presence wrapped around me, tears streaming down my own face with my hands raised as high as I could reach them. Im not sure how many 7 or 8 year old kids get filled with the Holy Spirit, but I know I was one of them.
I remember at 13, listening to a Hillsong worship tape and wanting to be part of that powerful worship, feeling God leading me into the music ministry. Ive been part of a worship team or leading worship myself since I was 14 years old. To me, worship is that time when our souls talk to God Himself one on one. That single moment in time when we enter into the Holy of Holy’s, some times flat on our face because of the awsome presence of God. That one moment in time where all of our cares and worries melt away and there is an overwhelming since of peace and wholeness that is beyond words. Where that “God shaped hole” inside us is filled. To me, worship is that one moment in time where we can run to our heavenly Father just like a small child crying “Papa! Papa! I love you!” leaping up into his lap and giving him a huge hug around his neck. Worship is that one moment in time, where its almost as if God is holding us in his arms and letting us know just how much he loves us. Ive felt that since I was a little boy. I miss that feeling now.
Just like many of you, I was tought from a young age about right and wrong. Good and evil. Homosexuality was definitely one of those on my parents top 10 of right and wrongs, good and evils. From a young age I can remember being attracted to the same sex. Looking back now, I didnt understand those feelings at all, but as I got older I realized just what those feelings were and what they meant. How what I was feeling was against everything I had been brought up to believe, and so, I started building walls. I got really good at burying my feelings and desires, my attraction to the same sex. Denouncing it in the name it Jesus everytime it came up in my mind. I couldnt tell you how many times I went up to the front of the church crying out to God to deliver me from this sin. I couldnt bare the conviction, the guilt, the fear. I built more walls.
I remember the first time I ended up giving in to my sexual desires. I was 18, right out of highschool. I can remember the huge range of emotions through out the whole ordeal. At first excitment and gratification. Later the agonizing guilt. The fear that I had cemented the fact that I really was attracted to men. No! I couldnt be! I was decieved!
More prayer. More tears. More pain. More walls.
I had never been so alone. I never got to a point where I was given outside help. Im sure if I would have said something to somebody I would have been promptly taken to a christian councelor or pastor of some sorts. The thought of talking to someone absolutely mortified me. I was so ashamed of myself that I dared not tell anybody. It was my secret that I beat myself up with over and over again, every day. A constant battle raging with in me. It felt (and still does at times) like a giant knot in the pit of my stomach, this raging pot boiling with unrest and turmoil never ceasing, always there.
I suppose the worst part was all the guilt. I have called myself the King of Guilt. I honestly thought nobody could feel as guilty as me, after all I was the biggest fraud. Everybody saw me at church crying out to God, up on stage leading worship or in the praise band, “what a wonderful young man of God”. If they only knew what I was crying out to God about! Then they would be ashamed of me. I would loose everything. Everyone I looked up to would be so disappointed.
I decided to attend Bethany Bible college in San Jose CA. That would fix it! I would become a music pastor, find a good Christian girl there and get married. In a few years I would be the music pastor at my own church, married, maybe even with a kid on the way. Surely Bible college would cure me of this sickness that I had.
Well, college fell through. I couldnt get all the tuition money together. I had to do something, and fast! I felt like I was going to fall off the edge. If I didnt make a choice soon I would end up going down the path of destruction, straight towards the local gay coffee shop. I would give into temptation again. Once was enough for me. I already had a life time of guilt to carry around because of my first slip up. I couldnt do that again.
A lot of my friends had joined the Navy, the thought of the military never crossed my mind growing up, but after talking to the recruiter and with the thought of the military paying for my college in four years, I signed up. If I couldnt go to Bible college right at that moment, then at least I would be in an environment that prohibited me from even thinking about being gay. There’s no way I would be gay if I was in the military! They would punish me if they knew, I wouldnt dare try anything then. This was one wall that would surely not fail.
I never realized how sheltered my life was until my first day in boot camp. I was petrified. I would call on God and he would get me through it, and he did. Joining the Navy however didnt keep me from being attracted to most of the men in my division any more than being room mates with a couple of guys in Bible college. I pushed my attractions and desires deeper with in myself. Hoping they would go away.
I met a girl a few months later, right after boot camp. She was the first girl I had met outside of Idaho that had the same background as I did. I ended up getting stationed in the same area where she was living in, and so we ended up dating. It wasnt long until things turned serious. That feeling of going off the deep end into the the world of cute boys and tight shirts still loomed over my head. The navy was not keeping me from wanting to be with another man. I had to build another wall. Just as the notion of me not being be gay in the military, I surely could not be gay and be in a marraige. Ashley was the girl for me. God had brought her into my path and we would start a life together in holy matramony. Not one person in my family had gotten a divorce. That word was never uttered in my family. It was right up there with homosexuality in the grand scheme of good and evils. This was my sure fire way out of this whole homosexuality trap. All I needed was to get married and that would finaly take away all of these atractions and desires I had battled for so long. Almost a year to the date we first met, we were married. She was 18, I was 20. At last my battle was over, this wall would never fail.
Looking back I can see how foolish I was. All this time I was beating myself up, not forgiving myself of this “horrible sin” that I was plagued with. Trying everthing I could to keep myself from slipping into a life style that was so evil and wrong. I joined the military, I got married, I did everything possible to prevent me from giving in to my homosexual desires. The consequences would be to great for me to even fathom. I wouldnt dare try anything now.
By this point my secret with homosexuality was becoming harder and harder to bare. I was becoming more frustrated with my life. I was angry inside that being married had not taken away my desires to be with another man. I burried myself in church. Ashley and I had become the aspiring newly weded couple at Oak Harbor Assembly of God. We both put a lot of effort into the youth ministry, I lead the worship service on Wednesday nights and played in the praise band on Sundays. It seemed at times that I spent more time at church than I did at home. It was easier that way. Before long, the excitement of “newly weddidness” wore off, and the weight of my secret turned into depression. My wife new that I was hiding something from her and I eventually broke down and told her about my struggle with homosexuality. I confessed about my first sexual encounter with another man. I was sure it was over. Instead, my wife understood and assured me that everything would be ok. She asked me if this might come up again in our marraige. I exasperatingly assured her that I would never do such a thing. After all, we were a committed christian couple that had our whole lives ahead of us.
I cannot believe how long I went living such a bald faced lie. The crazy part is, at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. That I actually was straight, that I could never be gay. It just wasnt possible! I was a Christian! I was a Bible believing, speaking in tounges, filled with the Holy Spirit, dancing in the isles, worship leading, role modle for the youth CHRISTIAN! With that, another giant wave of guilt would wash over me and I would push back the notion again and again that my feelings and desires were anything but a spiritual battle. The demon of homosexuality waging war on my eternal soul.
Everything started to fall apart when I received orders to Hawaii. Ashley and I left Oak Harbor and moved to Pearl Harbor, away from the Church, the friends and all the activities that kept me so busy and away from dealing with myself. We had been married less than two years and I was already feeling resentmet toward my wife. I started to close off from her, pushing away, hoping she would push back. She didnt. In fact, she tried harder. This made me feel more guilty, which spawned more resentment, it was a vicious cycle that continued behind closed doors that worsened with every month we were together. Of course no one on the outside knew. I was so good at puting on a mask. Nobody knew of my struggles. To everybody I had the perfect life. I was serving my country, had a beautiful wife, a nice home, we were active members in our church. Everyone in my life, my friends and especially my family seemed more happy with my life than I did. I felt like no one really knew who I was, like I was just putting on this giant charade for everyone to see.
We had only been in Hawaii a few months before I had to leave again. I was deploying to Japan for 6 months. About a week before I left my younger brother called. He was very upset.
“John, I have to tell you something. Im gay.”
I couldnt believe it. I thought I was the only one dealing with this. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I wasnt alone. I comforted my brother and told him that he was not the only one going through this situation. That I was struggling with the exact same thing. I knew exactly how he was feeling, what he was going through. We had the same family for goodness sake!
My brother told me that he was talking to a councelor and that he was going to talk to my parents. I could not believe how out in the open he was with his secret. How many people knew. All this time, I had not told a soul and suffered alone and in scilence.
That conversation was a major turning point in my life. I wasnt the only one out there.
During the six months that I was deployed to Japan I had time to think. I made some new friends, a couple of which I found out were gay. They were the first people I opened up to, the first people who really truly accepted me for who I was. The good, the bad, the gay. During this time I started to realize that I couldnt run any more. That the walls I had built to keep me from “going over to the other side” were useless, because whether or not I wanted to admit it, I was already there.
I returned home from deployment and my marraige didnt even make it another month. I couldnt pretend anymore. I wanted to go back to Japan, back to the friends I had made, where I was accepted for who I was, where I didnt have to pretend. I came back to a life that I had built, the life that I was expected to have. The life that made everyone else happy. I realized for the frist time, that this life was a complete lie. We separated and eventually divorced.
At this point I would like to say that everything got better. That this new found freedom in accepting my sexuality made my life ok. It was actually the exact oposite.
Ive had to start completly over with my life. Ive been blessed with some amazing friends who have loved and supported me through my coming out, but its been hard not talking to some one with the same religious background as I have had. Ive always had my brother to talk too, but from the first conversation we had, the two of us have chosen different paths. My brother “on the road to recovery” after hours of christian counceling he decided that he was not gay and that he was going to choose to live a straight lifestyle.
I wasnt going to go through that agony again. I wasnt going to pretend anymore. I had to make a choice. Live to make everybody else happy, or live to make me happy. I have been out now for over two years and I am still in the healing process from all the emotional damage.
Ive had to abandon everything Ive been taught and start over from scratch, only this time from a different prespective. I could never turn my back on my faith in God, I could never doubt his existence. Ive felt His presence and experienced way to much to do that. I would be a fool.
Which is why this web site is such a refreshing drink of water to me! Ive seen plenty of gay christian sites but none that dealt with the struggles of being gay and being a penticostal christian.
Im part of a church now in Honolulu. (Im still stationed in Hawaii) I had to be. I stopped going to any kind of church for over a year. I missed it terribly. I missed being part of a congregation. Its a gay afirming church, and I have become the music director there, but its a small shadow in comparison to what I used to do, and the hunger and thirst for Gods presence during worship is almost non existent. Its just “church”.
Finding a site like this however gave me some hope. I know Im not the only one. Hopefully, some of you on this site will relate to my story.
And Mr. Venn-Brown, if you ever read this, thank you. Thank you so much, I cant wait to read your book. At least you can know that there is at least one other openly gay penticostal christian out there!